Fukuyama, Manent, and Europe's Identity Crisis
As I'm sure you all know, Francis Fukuyama is blogging again, and his recent posts on "European Identities" merit our attention. While Europeans panic over bailouts and economic uncertainty, Fukuyama reminds us that the deepest challenges facing Europe are political challenges. He argues that Europe has never successfully established a sense of identity, “a European sense of citizenship that would define the obligations, responsibilities, duties and rights that Europeans have to one another beyond simply the wording of different treaties that were signed.” Moreover, he rightly argues that the whole European project has been an “elite-driven affair,” and that the movement from monetary to fiscal union, bereft of grassroots support, harbors dangerous political consequences.
Indeed, European unification has always entailed a diminution of democracy (e.g., the empowerment of nondemocratic institutions like the one in Brussels, and the notion that some democratically elected national governments must defer to the wills and desires of other democratically elected national governments). But I think the difficulty facing the EU goes one step further, and here I invoke the contemporary French theorist Pierre Manent (check out “A World Beyond Politics?: A Defense of the Nation-State”).
Manent argues that Europe’s “identity crisis” is rooted in an ambiguity within the notion of democracy itself.
Because the modern theory of representation has allowed democracy to flourish in large republics (sorry Anti-federalists), some still associate democracy with the national form. These are opponents of the EU, people who tend think the EU is an elitist driven affair, or who at least question its structure.
Conversely, there are others who think that the national form, manifested in birth and language, undermines the subjectivity of the democratic will. Those making this argument might also add that severing the national form ought to appear natural, given what Europe experienced in the past century.
Thus must Europe wrestle with an enduring human question: Does liberty mean, as Manent writes, “Be free! Do what you will!” or does it mean, “Be yourself! Become what you are!” Europeans must ultimately choose between individual autonomy and citizenship. Bailout or no bailout, they cannot subordinate politics forever.